Medical malpractice lawsuit filed after Intuitive Surgical robotic device malfunctioned

Michelle Keahey Nov. 7, 2011, 2:00am


Claiming a robotic surgical procedure failed during neck surgery, Jennifer Silvestrini filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical Inc. and/or Intuitive Surgical Systems Inc. and University Healthcare Systems, d/b/a Tulane University Hospital and Clinic.

The suit was filed on Sept. 26 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court and the defendants removed the case to New Orleans federal court on Oct. 28.

Silvestrini was admitted to Tulane University Hospital and Clinic on Oct. 7, 2010 for robotic transaxillary total thyroidectomy to be performed by Dr. Emad Kandil. During the surgery, there was an "unexplained, malfunction/breakdown of the robotic device," that could not be fixed by the doctor or the staff, according to the complaint.

Silvestrini claims the malfunction occurred when the machine was inserted in her neck.

Although by agreement and contract, Intuitive Surgical Systems is to have available service personnel who could rapidly troubleshoot malfunctions with the device, the hospital was unable to contact anyone and fix the problem, the lawsuit claims. Silvestrini's family agreed to convert her surgery to a "traditional" one, which involved opening a long area in her neck.

Intuitive Surgery is accused of failing to maintain the robot at issue, failing to properly train personnel on the equipment's use, and failing to timely send and dispatch a technician.

Tulane University is accused of failing to maintain the robot, failing to have properly trained personnel, failing to have an adequate, workable arrangement with Intuitive Surgical Inc. and failing to require a trained representative either in an operating room or near enough to respond rapidly to a foreseeable emergency.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, interest and court costs.

Silvestrini is represented by Vincent J. Glorioso, Jr., Maria B. Glorioso and Vincent J. Glorioso, III of The Glorioso Law Firm in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:11-cv-02701

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